What is the Best Exercise for my Back?
What really causes back pain?
Procrastination. This word conjures up many different emotions and scenarios for each of us. Whether it’s putting off cleaning out the fridge and then finding weird foods growing in back corners where they shouldn’t be. Or it’s finally tending to our backyard weeds, only to learn that we can’t see our animals or shed in the backyard anymore because the weeds have now taken over. Often it feels like these things happened suddenly.
Unfortunately, we all know that our backyard or fridge didn’t suddenly become a disaster. It has happened gradually over time. So gradually, that we don’t even notice until we need to use the shed and now, we can no longer see it. It’s the same with our spine.
We regularly see new clients coming in to our office, in an absolute crisis. In fact, this happened just last week. A new client, a wonderful woman, could barely walk, let alone sit comfortably due to the severity of her back and leg pain. Yes, there was an instigating incident, however, once we began asking questions, the warning signs were there from the past, she just ignored them.
Her x-rays confirmed this wasn’t a new problem.
In fact, the problem hadn’t been there for a few days, but years, gently simmering away, ready to really begin boiling over when things got just a little worse.
Procrastination, it’s something us humans are good at. However, if you keep procrastinating with your health, especially your spine, it will eventually catch up with you in one way or another. Firstly, your body whispers. If you ignore the whispers, soon it will begin to yell. How your body yells to you will be different to the next person.
So, what can I do to help my back?
When we begin working on patients with spinal problems, most of them want to get back to work, or enjoy family time or get to the end of their workouts without pain. They also want to be able to do something to speed their progress, to help their body heal better and faster. A common question we get asked is “what exercise can I do when I’ve hurt my back”? It’s a great question and one we are going to tackle today. So, if this interests you, or if this is appropriate for a family member or friend, then please read on and share.
Spinal Curves and Movement
Our spine has 3 curves when we look at it from the side. A neck and a low back curve, both called a lordosis, and a mid-back curve, called a kyphosis. These curves are essential for many reasons.
Some important functions of these spinal curves are;
They give our spine strength
They absorb shock
They give us mobility
When our individual spinal joints get stuck this causes nerve interference. In Chiropractic, we call this problem subluxation. If subluxation remains uncorrected, then we can lose our spinal curves.
Losing healthy spinal curves has many implications. For starters we will lose strength, shock absorbing capacity and then individual joint movement and eventually global (a whole region of your spine) movement. As we know, movement is life. Without movement you start losing muscle tone, without the correct nerve supply you lose even more muscle tone, without the joints being loaded correctly our muscle tone can become low, asymmetrical or it can turn into a spasm.
Usually, the first thing we establish as Chiropractors is movement. As chiropractors, our job is to locate if and where you have subluxation; a misalignment, an individual spinal segment that is stuck, not moving and causing nerve interference. This is what we call a segmental loss of movement. Correcting subluxation is what Chiropractors excel in. Improving segmental loss of movement and removing nerve pressure is what Chiropractors spend years learning how to do safely, effectively and with ease. Correcting subluxation increases segmental movement AND increases global movement too.
Your Spine, Degeneration and Osteoporosis
When we look at our spine from the front or the back it should be straight. When you have subluxation, it can cause the spine to become twisted. When the spine is stuck, twisted or you lose your curves, your body weight becomes incorrectly distributed over individual segments of your spine.
This can lead to areas of degeneration (known as degenerative joint disease, DJD or osteoarthritis, OA) or even loss of bone density (known as osteoporosis). If degeneration is left unattended, typically it gets worse.
Gravity and Your Spine
Another factor that can lead to osteoporosis is a lack of the correct load on our spine. Our bones are constantly remodelling. Bone is degraded or resorbed, (called osteoclastic activity) and then bone is laid down (called osteoblastic activity). These functions happen simultaneously. Spinal bone is laid down in a grid fashion, lengthwise and vertically. The vertical bone forms due to us being upright, needing to hold ourselves against gravity. The body is smart, it knows that the pressure from gravity means we need to build more vertical bone to make our bones strong to hold us up.
(Astronauts know this better than anyone. When they are in space and have no gravity pushing down on them, they very quickly lose bone density. They have developed special programs for Astronauts both when they are in space and when they return, to keep as much density as possible and build back up their bone density again when they hit earth. If they don’t, they’d suffer from compression fractures in their spine and hip fractures and long-term disability.)
Gravity can be exhausting; at the end of a workday when you have spent the day on your feet or if you have been at a monitor holding your head up all day, you simply get tired. However, gravity is also our friend. Without it, our spine wouldn’t remodel with the vertical trabeculae (the upright bony grid) the way we need it to.
So. what is the best exercise for my back?
Movement is the first key. Your spine needs to move. Have your spine checked for subluxation and loss of joint health, loss of intersegmental movement and loss of healthy nerve supply. Find yourself a great Chiropractor and simply get checked, then, if necessary, get aligned.
To globally move though, may be very difficult when you are in pain, so the movement that you perform needs to be simple, with the least amount of stress on your body.
Gravity is the second key. Your spine needs gravity to build strong, healthy bony trabeculae.
Tone, healthy muscle tone is the final key. You need a repetitious movement that can develop great spinal tone from the top of the spine all the way to the bottom of the tail bone.
So, what is this magical exercise? Simple. Grab some good sneakers and get walking. One step in front of the other. Walking wins because it;
Uses gravity, thus you will build bone density.
Increases muscle tone, both the big and small muscles groups
Increases global movement.
Is great for cardiovascular fitness.
Is inexpensive & you can do it anywhere.
Can be done solo or in a group.
Stimulates your frontal lobe of your brain by the feel of the breeze, smells of nature, the sounds around you.
Allows you to take the dog, cat, or pram with you
Plus many more
Here are some pointers to help you out on your walking endeavours;
If you are in significant pain, make sure you only walk on the flat. No hills. You could even just start walking up and down your hallway.
If you can’t avoid hills on your outside walk, walk up or down a hill backwards. You may look a little silly, however this will take the load off your lower spine discs.
Try to strike the ground first with your heel.
As you walk imagine the top of your head is being pulled to the sky
Try to use big arm swings.
Build up to 12-15 minutes a day.
Often, we get asked “Can I still exercise if I’ve hurt my back”? The answer is yes. Just take it slow and gentle. If you are a little sore afterwards make sure to ice the area for around 7 minutes.
Having your spine assessed now, long before you are in a crisis, (where the weeds have overgrown your shed), is a much better option than waiting. However, if you are in a crisis please reach out, we have helped so many people over the years naturally, without medication, get back to doing what they love to do.
You can find us in Albury at 444 David Street, immediately opposite KFC. Just call 02 6009 0999 to make an appointment. In the meantime, enjoy walking your spine, and body to better health.